Explaining that her journey to Ogooma, Uganda, was a story of faith, hope and gratitude, Sheri Richer Camillone, told students at École Fox Run School and other schools and organizations in the Sylvan Lake area about the work of T.O.U.C.H. Ministries and how their donations are helping.
She was in Uganda for three months (returning in March), as the first missionary for the organization which was started in Sylvan Lake and has now branched out to Saskatchewan and Ottawa. It’s affiliated with Sylvan Lake Alliance Community Church.
T.O.U.C.H. operates an orphanage for 40 orphans and supplies water to a community of at least 1,000 people daily. Last year, about $6,000 was raised at Fox Run for a nursery school for the orphanage. Students and staff at C. P. Blakely School have also contributed to the organization’s projects.
“The children are so filled with joy, gratitude and love,” said Camillone. “They love unconditionally,” she added, showing a picture of her surrounded by a group of youngsters within hours of arriving at the orphanage.
“They have a welcoming nature that is so amazing. The children sing and dance for anyone who visits.”
She told the story of three ladies whose “courage and faith inspired me throughout my journey”.
Camillone said, “I was humbled by their gratitude, gratitude towards me, and grateful for their friendship.”
While in Ogooma, a new hut was built for Berrita, a grandmother of seven orphans at the orphanage. Bricks were made by hand and dried under straw. Water to make them was carried on the heads of some of the women. The construction took four or five weeks and was financed by donations which Camillone took with her to Uganda.
The second lady Camillone spoke about was Stella who has five daughters. Both her first and second husbands had died from AIDS and she and two of her daughters are HIV positive. Because women have no property rights in Uganda when her first husband died his brothers came and took away their land. The same happened the second time however an uncle built Stella and the girls a hut. Camillone explained the government provided medication but doesn’t provide food and the medication to combat their sickness is so strong when taken without food that they get very sick.
Rose was the third woman Camillone talked about. Her husband abandoned her just before her baby was due so she had to walk seven kilometres to the hospital and then back the next day. The baby was two pounds when born while Camillone was in Uganda. When Rose arrived home her husband had taken many of their items for a dowry for his next wife and she was left with not much. The baby survived until early November.
Camillone talked about receiving a chicken from one of the ladies. Knowing it was needed by the family more than by her, she said it’s a cultural way to say thank you. “You need to graciously accept it otherwise they would think it was not good enough,” Camillone said. Another lesson. “In life you’re not only called to give, but called to receive out of generosity.”
She concluded, “the greatest gift we give is our heart, our friendship, our hope”.
“We all can give a little and someone else gets a lot in return,” she said.
“Coming home was difficult but sharing stories has been helpful for me. I learned so many things from the beautiful people of Ogooma, in the orphanage and in the village.”
Explaining she learned many lessons, she said, “It really doesn’t matter what you give. When you give from the heart and give to someone who needs it, every little gesture of kindness matters.”